“The Skin I Live In” – Pedro Almodóvar

The Skin I Live In.

The Skin I Live In.

The latest Almodóvar, The Skin I Live In, has just opened in the States and is reviewed in the New York Times by its chief film critic, Manohla Dargis here  I can only assume that her Christian name is evidence of Hispanic blood, and it is this that has resulted in the clogging up of her critical faculties, causing something of a blockage there.

I’m loath to say that this is the worst film that Almodóvar has made to date. The truth of the matter is, he is constitutionally incapable of making a bad film. Now that the anarchic, prodigal excess of his spring has settled down into the studied, languid calm of his late summer, all of his films are impeccably crafted and exquisitely fashioned.

What you tend to get instead is something of a yin and yang. For every Matador (’86), Law Of Desire (’87) and The Flower Of My Secret (’95), there’s a Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down (’90) a High Heels (‘91) and a Kika (’93). All of them are sumptuous to look at, but some, as that latter trio illustrate, are very, very thin. And this is the least substantial of all. Nobody expects him to reproduce the dizzy heights of 1999’s majestic All About My Mother, but it’s hard not to feel profoundly disappointed by his latest effort.

A young Antonio Banderas in The Law Of Desire.

A young Antonio Banderas in The Law Of Desire.

It’s impossible to watch The Skin I live In without viewing it as some sort of Frankenstein’s monster. The script takes a bit of Victorian gothic, a touch of science fiction, some Sirkian melodrama, the odd flash of farce, and bits and pieces of his customary sex and violence, formidable females and trademark transexuals and tries to patch them all together. Like all such creations, it’s an unedifying mess to behold, and you only wish that the brilliant creator had made more valuable use of his precious time.

How can the hand that penned the magnificent script for All About My Mother have similarly contrived to produce this? All writers should watch the former at least once, especially the opening four minutes, which is as lean and economical an opening to a story as you could ever wish to find. And all of what follows is equally as impressive. There is an interesting story point buried in the middle here, when The Skin I Live In asks whether or not rape can ever be in some way mitigated.

All About My Mother.

All About My Mother.

If she says No, but he goes ahead anyway, then his actions are unforgivable. If they both consent, but she “realises” months later that actually she was “raped”, then hers are inexcusable. But what if, for whatever reasons, he genuinely believes that she has consented, and she is certain that she hasn’t? Is that still rape, pure and simple? But rather than allow this in any way develop, it immediately gets lost in all the competing genre conventions and plot contrivances.

It’s wrong to describe this as his worst film. Despite being a comparative term, that somehow seems to denote an absence of worth. It is still an Amodóvar film with all the sensory gratification that that always promises. But it’s an extremely disappointing one.

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  1. […] all just a little too convoluted, while the two most recent, The Skin I Live In (reviewed earlier here) and I’m So Excited were, for all their surface glitz and glamour, just plain poor. So his latest […]

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